Table of Contents

China’s Urban Century

China’s Urban Century

Governance, Environment and Socio-Economic Imperatives

Edited by François Gipouloux

The achievements of China’s urbanization should not be evaluated solely in terms of adequate infrastructures, but also in their ability to implement sound governance practices to ensure social, environmental and economic development. This book addresses several key challenges faced by Chinese cities, based on the most recent policies and experiments adopted by central and local governments. The contributors offer an interdisciplinary analysis of the urbanization process in China, and examine the following key topics: the institutional foundations of Chinese cities, the legal status of the land, the rural to urban migration, the preservation of the urban heritage and the creation of urban community, and the competitiveness of Chinese cities. They define the current issues and challenges emerging from China’s urbanization.

Chapter 1: Introduction

François Gipouloux

Subjects: asian studies, asian urban and regional studies, environment, agricultural economics, politics and public policy, environmental governance and regulation, urban and regional studies, urban economics


Since the Middle Ages in Europe, the city has been primarily a legal concept, associated with the idea of autonomy and freedom. This has not been the case in China. There, the city has been devised to express the majesty of power, and the urban network that extends throughout the territory responded primarily to administrative, religious, geomantic and military concerns (Li, X., 2008). Towns developed under business logic without really challenging this policy. The urban perimeter included many rural areas, for food safety reasons. This legacy is still visible today. After a long stagnation during the 1958–78 decades, accelerated urbanization at work since the mid-1980s has been characterized by the interweaving of issues specific to economic reforms undertaken after Deng’s return to power: the complex relationships of conflict and bargaining between central and local governments; the reform of property rights (1988), which allowed access to housing for millions of urban residents; and finally, the tax-sharing system (1994), which governs the financing of urban infrastructure and the extension of social security coverage.